Research Hubs to Assess Progress Towards Excellence

Actors of nine West Africa agriculture research hubs are meeting in Saly, Senegal to assess progress towards the coveted status of Regional Centers of Excellence (RCoE).

The nine National Centers of Specialization were established with an understanding that they will progressively graduate to RCoE based on a set of pre-defined criteria.

Some of these conditions include having an agriculture research framework, infrastructure, and logistics to conduct quality research, a work program that addresses national and regional demands, qualified expertise to do research, contribution to strengthening national research systems, a governance system, etc.

In the three-day workshop organized by the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP), a program coordinated by CORAF, experts are expected to discuss potential challenges these centers face towards becoming RCoE.

Two out of the nine centers have already been given the critical nod of approval to become RCoE. They include the dry cereal research hub based in Senegal and the Roots and Tuber center in Ghana. Some of the results of their work on drought-tolerant and high-yielding crop varieties are among the most outstanding in the region.

At the Saly Workshop, actors will further discuss the form of support to give to NCoS to move towards RCoE and agree on a roadmap for the accreditation process of the West Africa Economic Community (ECOWAS). Only ECOWAS is entitled to deliver accreditations to these centers.

“Achieving the status of Regional Center of Excellence comes with considerable opportunities. Not only does it open the doors of these centers to internationally-recognized expertise and collaboration, but it also opens up these centers to more and diverse funding possibilities with enhanced capacity to deepen research in their priority commodities,” says Dr. Abdulai Jalloh, Director of Research and Innovation at CORAF.

The CORAF research hub model was born out of a challenging R&D context in which individual research centers worked in isolation with sometimes limited results.

“Our model helps avoid wasteful duplication, ensures efficient use of scarce human and financial resources, and enhances economies of scale with positive regional impacts,” says the CORAF Senior Official.

With this approach, varieties and technologies created in one center are disseminated to different countries.

“Regional centers of excellence are designed to conduct commissioned research on issues of regional interest,” says Dr. Lamien Niéyidouba Lamien, Program Coordinator WAAPP

“They can participate in calls for competitive funds and can mobilize from across the region required talents and skills to implement their research agenda,”

The other ECOWAS research hubs include Rice (Mali), fruit and legumes (Burkina Faso), plantain (Côte d’Ivoire), aquaculture (Nigeria), maize (Benin), livestock (Niger), and mangrove Rice (Sierra Leone).

The results of an evaluation of all the centers conducted by experts IN 2017 shall inform the workshop. Expected participants include representatives of governments, national agricultural research systems, National coordinators of WAAPPI and ECOWAS representatives.